South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
11 October 2002

International NGO Community Tells Government:

Hear the South Durban Communities, Scrap the Mondi Waste Burner

Durban and Manila, 11 October 2002.  Public interest groups from around the world today urge the South African Government to cancel the authorization given to Mondi Paper for a R200 million incinerator in Merebank, South Durban. Civil society views the unpopular decision as a “kick in the teeth,” undermining the country’s commitment under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).  This global treaty, which the Government ratified during the recent Earth Summit, aims to reduce and eventually wipe out an initial set of 12 most toxic substances on earth, including cancer-causing dioxins, the most notorious pollutants associated with incinerators.

In a letter sent to Environment Minister Valli Moosa and MEC for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Mr. Narend Singh, more than 175 groups from 47 countries asked the government to scrap the Mondi incinerator project, reject other incineration proposals and shut down existing incineration facilities so as to reduce total releases of dioxins and other by-product POPs into the environment, in line with the Stockholm Convention.  Taking these bold steps to avoid dioxin formation will advance the people’s right to a healthy environment as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the groups said.

The authorization issued by the Department of Agriculture and Environment Affairs (DAE) for Mondi’s waste-to-energy facility to fuel its paper business has outraged the civil society, particularly as it was not informed by a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) and defies the global accord towards the elimination of toxic substances from incinerators.  Critics believe that the intended waste streams to be fed to the burner contain many heavy metals. "The Mondi proposal is not only bad news for the local community, but also for the South African government.  Approving this incinerator is akin to consigning nearby communities to an unwanted fate of deadly toxic exposures,” said Von Hernandez, Co-Coordinator of the Manila-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).  “It also runs against the international consensus to phase out sources of deadly pollutants," he continued.

Desmond D’Sa, chair of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), noted that “This is hypocrisy from the government and goes against their policy and commitment to phase out dirty fuel in the South Durban basin. Government’s own consultant, Tim Knight, concluded that no more development of industries that use dirty fuel should be allowed in the area. Once again it shows that communities cannot put their faith and trust in government.”  He challenged the government to come out into the open on what the bigger picture for South Durban is going to be.  “Are they going to relocate communities to make way for dirty industries?,” D’Sa asked.

The NGOs warned that the Mondi incinerator is but another lethal threat to the South Durban communities who have long been languishing from high incidents of cancers and respiratory illnesses due to persistent exposures to chemical and industrial contaminants.  Chemicals found in incinerator emissions, over 200 of them, will only exacerbate pollution and further threaten public health.  According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 69% of dioxins in the global environment are attributable to waste incinerators.

The NGOs said that incineration technology is even more problematic for developing countries like South Africa due to the apparent lack of capacity to monitor stack emissions or ash toxicity, lack of technical ability to test releases, lack of enforcement of operational parameters and lack of secure landfills for the ash. Quoting from a newly-published GAIA report “Bankrolling Polluting Technology: The World Bank Group and Incineration, the groups cautioned that “even in Northern countries, it is routine for incinerator operators to evade emissions and ash monitoring.”

The letter also cited that in 1998 the Durban Metro, with support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), proposed a refuse-derived fuel (RDF) incinerator for Mondi.  Civil society representatives from SDCEA and US-based Essential Action, met the IFC, and called for them to reconsider their proposal.  The project was scrapped.  It is sad to see it being re-invented under the guise of a boiler developed by Biotrace, a US company.  There are four other incinerator proposals by US companies in South Africa.

The SDCEA is an alliance of communities campaigning for environmental justice, particularly in pushing for corporate responsibility in environmental care.  GAIA is a global NGO coalition, with over 300 members in more than 60 countries, that is working to halt all forms of waste incineration and to promote clean production, zero waste and sustainable approaches to discards management.

Editor’s Note:

1.  The full text of the letter, including the list of signatories, is available at the GAIA website at

2.  The NGOs that signed the letter represent a whole gamut of the civil society – environmental protection groups, communities fighting toxic pollution, proponents of corporate responsibility, zero waste networks, justice and peace coalitions etc.  They come from the following countries: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Congo, Egypt, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana,Grenada, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, UK, USA.

Media Contacts:
South  Africa:

Desmond D’Sa, phone: 031 4611991 or 083 9826939


Von Hernandez/Manny Calonzo,

Phone: +632-9290376, +632-4364733